Y R Some Vendors confused about e-learning?

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Right now I am questioning everything about anything.  Did we really walk on the moon? (Yes)  Are the people at my gas station really that stupid? (IMO, totally)

Are there vendors in the e-learning space who lack basic understanding around e-learning? (Yes) 

Lastly, if the vendors, organizations and firms whose whole background, expertise and existence is tied to e-learning and they themselves are not fully understanding it, does this bode well for the industry as a whole? (I’ll leave that up to you)

E-Learning is E-Learning and not some magical dust

I won’t go into the huge diatribe I did last week on my Linkedin group regarding this whole e-learning is really electronic learning angle that some organizations, experts and others are taking and talking about as if it is fact. 

The fact of the matter is that e-learning was devised as online learning and not electronic learning – which aligns more to CBT (computer based training), network to network training via your own internal network before online was available to all, and so forth.

You can read the post here, then feel free to respond, but the whole takeaway is that when e-mail was first identified it was for online mail.  When you say to someone, I will send you an e-mail, they think online, they don’t say, “oh, they are sending me an electronic mail”.   The same applies to e-learning.  It is a course online and not an electronic course achieved through some inner secretive technologies in 1952.

Say it ain’t so

Just as the folks alive during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 would remember – regarding the fixing of the World Series (baseball) – this statement can easily be applied to many items appearing in the e-learning space itself.

Favorites include (please put “Say it ain’t so” in front

  • Using “e-learning” to reference content often SCORM to be uploaded, so “E-Learning” is the header and the admin can now upload content
  • Identifying “e-learning” to mean online content and nothing more
  • Following a linear approach when having learners take courses then place it under the guise of online learning – partially true, partially not
  • Misunderstanding the actual time length of a learning byte (already discussed numerous times, but if it is longer than six minutes of content, it is not a learning byte or chunk)
  • Assuming that the expert you just hired is in fact an expert in the field (sadly this happens in any industry, but I recall one client telling me they were pitched by a firm whose expert had 6 mths experience in e-learning)
  • LMS vendors who by my own assessment clearly are failing to understand e-learning nor “really get it”, what they get is the “financial possibilities”
  • LMS vendors who are so internal employee oriented they are missing the big picture AND with that, they fail to realize that the B2B platform pricing and approach must be different than the one used for “internal employee” training

And I could go on.  Point – there is a lot of Say it ain’t so going on and the one who is taking the hit for it – the buyer (i.e. client, consumer).

I give you Facts you give me an Apple

E-Learning is an umbrella term of online learning.  A LMS? Hello, it fits under e-learning.  Authoring tool? Under e-learning.  Mobile learning platform? Yowsa – e-learning.  Social learning? E-Learning.  Assessment tool for online learning?  E-learning.  Web based training (WBT which was the term to define web based courses) – E-Learning. 

If it deals with any aspect of learning online, whether it is the infrastructure or software regardless if the base is your own server hosting content online for learners or a solution in the cloud that is enabled or provided to people to learn in some fashion, e-learning is the main term. 

Web conferencing – well it if is for a webinar – it is under e-learning.  If it is a web meeting and no learning is taking place, then no, it is not under e-learning.  

  Just as you can argue that a classroom is nothing more than a room with chairs. I could educate folks there or have a meeting to discuss the town’s Memorial Day parade.  The same applies to online learning and web conferencing solutions.

I digress though.

So, if you stripe it all the way, that LMS you are selling to customers is under “e-learning”, it is not a separate entity away from e-learning.  Thus, in the case above, courses upload tied to SCORM or if you offer Tin Can too, then SCORM or Tin Can options.   

Courses – Today they can mean a lot of different items, but for the e-learning side of the house, the “e” for “online” is the key.  

Courses could be a course built in an authoring tool, built in an authoring tool outputted with a compliance standard, created by a 3rd party shop with compliance standards or without, a video (as long as people can learn something from it, better if you tie it to the learning path),  a video with standards wrapped around it – doable with some systems or go ScoTube which is free (convert video to SCORM 1.2 video). 

And yes, any document, including sticking your ebook online for learners to read would constitute online learning content. 

The question though is whether or not, the learner really learns OR rather reads the information and sees it as such, “information” rather than true online course learning. 

To me, the former applies more when it comes to content without it built within the infrastructure of a course whether it is built via an authoring tool or without – which video courses can be achieved and achieved with great learning success (oh, and also in a non-linear format).

Welcome to the Party, leave your…. at the door

I always tell vendors that they are supposed to be the experts and not the people inquiring about the information. 

Sure, you can be extremely knowledgeable about the topic (in our case “e-learning”), but the vendor whose own product is built upon and within the e-learning framework should have additional insight, knowledge and understanding which exceeds the average customer looking for whatever online learning item.

For those who are/were overseeing ILT training.  When you have a trainer provide training, regardless of the topic, you expect him/her to be an expert – the people in the audience expect them to be the expert, after all they are attending the training to learn from someone who should know more then them.   

While there are occasions where the attendee knows more than the trainer/instructor/expert – it shouldn’t be the norm.

If you are seeking a LMS or something within e-learning, this blog (i.e. mine) was setup to provide extensive information on all things e-learning especially LMSs and authoring tools. 

This is because they are the two biggest items in the e-learning space (no offense to assessment tools, other e-learning tools, etc.).  An LMS regardless of your price point, will be a major investment and a long term cost.

An authoring tool is an investment in of itself.  Some folks may think spending 1K is minimal for an authoring tool, but during my days of running a training dept., regardless of my budget, I saw anything over $750 a major investment.

Thus, having additional insight, information and tools to help you acquire a greater depth of knowledge for the industry is one of the reasons why this blog was established.

If you want further expertise or don’t want to deal with the extensive number of vendors out there, you can always hire an expert, like me – “yes shameless plug” to find it for you.

The commonality though is that you selecting whomever or whatever for your e-learning needs or inquiring for such information, that person, company, firm should be experts in their respected industries and markets. 

If I make a learning management system, I should be an expert not only in e-learning, but also learning management systems. 

I should also have knowledge around basic course design – i.e. what is WBT the best way to achieve success with my solution and the course;  and ideally the knowledge to know where the market is going, heading and what I am adding to my offering to make it say ahead of the game or at least in synch.

If I am an authoring tool vendor, I better know e-learning and definitely know the difference between excellent course builds and poor.  I should be able to provide to you, information that you could not surf and find in under three minutes on Google.

A web conferencing vendor who is providing their offering as a webinar or virtual classroom, should know e-learning and its nuances.

They should know the key differences and benefits to virtual classrooms/webinars versus F2F/ILT, classroom based learning and it SHOULD NOT only be the savings in travel or productivity because they do not have to travel.

But how many times, does that really happen?  How many times do you as the client/consumer/buyer feel that the person you are talking with, communicating with, discussing with really knows “e-learning?” 

How often do you hang up the phone, or re-read the email and think to yourself, is that person an expert or just good at surfing the internet?

If you plan to purchase any e-learning offering, the person, firm, vendor or whomever should not only know their own offering but also e-learning in general. 

They may not know the first 100% online university was Jones International, but they should know the e-learning is more often taken out of the workplace then within (with minor exceptions such as seasonal, retail). 

If they are in education e-learning they should know the differences between synchronous based learning and asynchronous based (I can state unequivocally, that I have known established vendors who are misinformed about ABL and thus do not know the difference).

Bottom Line

E-Learning isn’t something that can be learned overnight.  Nor should it be.

It isn’t something that allows you one day to wake up and say “I’m going to build ABC”, because the market is targeted to make X billion dollars a year”, and assume to yourself and your investors that this e-learning thing is easy to figure out and do.

It isn’t something that you should allow to be misguided or misunderstood, for those who will take the hit, initially won’t be you.

It will be them (consumers, buyers, customers, clients).

They should expect you to be knowledgeable about e-learning and have some insight into its nuances. 

Regardless of the product, service, solution and/or offering. 

If you are in the e-learning space as a firm, organization, supplier or individual who provides services, solutions, products or offerings to buyers/consumers/customers regardless of the vertical, location  and so on., then you should have knowledge about e-learning.

You should have the battle scars to prove it.

Not for trumpeting how amazing you are, rather to show your expertise in the field and the assurance you can offer to anyone who contacts you, that you can be trusted as an expert day in and day out.

Now it is time to tell others.

Start tomorrow.

E-Learning 24/7







  1. This is largely the state of play here in Australia. Though I should hasten to add vendors are very liberal with the truth in regards to what their product or service can actually do. It’s tricky business for the uninitiated to traverse. I’ve dealt with vendors who outright lie in their attempts to secure business. One must peel back the sales pitch and separate fact from fiction.

    1. I find it is a common issue around the world and frankly that is too bad. It is the same issue that showed up in 2000.

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